IAM Principle 3 – Conducive Atmosphere

This page explains in general terms the third IAM principle – conducive atmosphere.

Overview of Conducive Atmosphere IAM Principle

The conducive atmosphere principle reinforces high-quality training (as defined in the footnote 1 above) within an accepting and encouraging environment, which, in turn, allows for full focus directly on activities. This principle facilitates the adaptability and stimulation needed for all students to be able to reach specific learning objectives associated with a given experiential program. Adaptability entails student-centered instruction through flexible (i.e., open to modification) teaching materials, a choice of learning tools, constant attention, and customization on the part of the educator in accordance with each student’s learning capacity. Stimulation involves individually manageable challenges for students, eliciting positive emotions and intrinsic motivation for learning by meeting students’ own goals, stimulating the body and mind (such as with exercise), and asking students to set active learning intentions in collaboration with their peers. As evidenced by myself and through students’ reports, in every IAM program conducted thus far, all students reached the programs’ specific objectives (outlined in Soyfer 2016, section IAM Programs, pp. 32-40 1.3) as a group, through each one’s own personal path of learning.

conducive-1Hence the conducive atmosphere principle is facilitated through:
(1) eliciting positive emotions (to enhance learning),
(2) using flexible materials (i.e., modifying their presentation and structure), and
(3) facilitating an optimal learning state (i.e., manageable, but slightly challenging and personally meaningful environment).
For example, positive emotions may be elicited through enjoyable games or physical exercise prior to focused learning activities. As for flexible material, one example, in the case of song, is to have students at first sing a single syllable instead of lyrics (e.g., “la la”). An optimal learning state is achieved by subsequent addition of lyrics at the appropriately challenging time. Let us take a closer look at these three processes.

Positive Emotions Enhance Learning

Positive emotions, or “positive feeling states,” have been measured by Dr. Rollin McCraty and his colleagues to transmit coherent and ordered signals throughout various parts of the body and brain, which in turn harmonize and synchronize the activity of the nervous system (Arguelles et al. 2003, 15). This coherent or synchronized activity has been shown to facilitate higher cognitive abilities in students (Arguelles et al. 2003, 15). Further supporting research and details of how positive emotions are related to enhanced learning and memory [is] provided in chapter 2 (IAM Related Research and Literature) of Integrated Arts Pedagogy and Philosophy (Soyfer 2016, pp. 43-136)) (i.e., Lozanov 1978, Meier 2014, Caine and Caine 1990, Schultz 2007, and others). Techniques for eliciting positive emotions include positive answer-directed questions (in a sharing circle setting) and exercise (during warm-ups before learning). Techniques implied by IAM pedagogy are explained in detail in appendix A (IAM Activities and Techniques, Soyfer 2016, 314-353) and discussed in chapters 3 (IAM Music Pedagogy and Repertoire, Soyfer 2016, 135-248) and 4 (IAM Planning and Facilitation, Soyfer 2016, 250-298).

Flexibility of Teaching Materials Ensures Learning by All Students

IAM’s flexible and student-centered teaching materials and techniques are aimed at enhancing learning by being specifically adjusted to fit individual students. The process of recognizing individual students’ capacities for learning (or “the brain’s codes for meaningful learning”), and the related process of pedagogical adjustment of the teaching process and materials to make them meaningful for each student (i.e., “in relation to those codes”) ensures learning and enhances it for those not optimally engaged by pre-set curricula[1] (Ozden and Gultekin 2008, 1, and Caine and Caine 1990, Meier 2014). Skill development is guaranteed when material is adapted as needed for a given student, whereas fixing material leaves skill development to chance. The objectives of IAM programs, for example, are skill oriented, allowing for adaptable materials to be used to reach these objectives. Flexible materials [are] exemplified in chapter 3 (Soyfer 2016, 135-248), while flexibility in planning [are] illustrated in chapter 4 (IAM Planning and Facilitation, Soyfer 2016, 250-298). Further supporting research and details of how educators can facilitate enhanced learning and meaningful memorization through student-centered instruction [are] provided in chapter 2 (Soyfer 2016, 43-136).

The Optimal Learning State Ensures Motivation and Meaningfulness

The optimal learning state is in part a relaxed alertness state, and in part a patterning process, which links students’ previous knowledge to the new knowledge (Ozden and Gultekin 2008, Caine and Caine 1990). In “The Brain/Mind Principles of Natural Learning” (chapter 3 of Jones 2013), Renate N. Caine and Geoffrey Caine wrote: “… the optimal state of mind for higher-order thinking and learning is relaxed alertness, a combination of low threat and high intrinsic challenge…” (Caine and Caine in Jones 2013, 53). Ozden and Gultekin further explained that:

… challenging learners in a proper way but with a low level of threat (Caine & Caine, 1995). Learners need to feel secure so that they can take risks. If the objective is to change the thinking styles of learners through establishing associations between the old and new knowledge, then learners need to be secure and require a challenging relaxed alertness (Pool, 1997)… (Ozden and Gultekin 2008, 3)

These processes enhance learning by ensuring a balance between simplification and challenge, meaning that each participant is neither too bored with simplicity nor intimidated by difficulty. The optimal learning state also involves the process of linking new information to students’ existing knowledge, thus enhancing long term memorability by mnemonic association, whereby new information is recalled correctly by association with familiar knowledge. This technique is also related to intrinsic motivation (meaningfully engaging the student). The associative nature of our brains and its influence on learning play a key role in this process (Rose 1987, Sweller et al. 1998).

IAM compatible solutions for using flexible materials, facilitating optimal learning states, and maintaining a conducive atmosphere [are] provided in [section IAM Pedagogy, (Soyfer 2016, pp. 14-26)], [and other] chapters, and appendices of  [Dr. Soyfer’s] dissertation (Soyfer 2016).

[1] In this context “pre-set” refers to curricular material chosen without consideration of current individual students’ opinions, and without modification or adaptation to them. This differs from of IAM programs’ skill oriented objectives, which allow curricular materials to be flexible and adaptable to students.


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Caine, Renate Nummela and Geoffrey Caine. 1990. “Understanding a Brain-Based Approach to Learning and Teaching.” In Educational Leadership, vol. 48, no. 2: pp. 66-70. http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/journals/ed_lead/el_199010_caine.pdf (accessed October 6, 2014).

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Lozanov, Georgi. 1978. Suggestology and Outlines of Suggestopedy. New York: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers Inc.

Meier, David. 2014. The Center for Accelerated Learning: What is Accelerated Learning. http://www.alcenter.com/what_is.php (accessed April 28, 2014).

Ozden, Muhammet, and Mehmet Gultekin. 2008. “The Effects of Brain-Based Learning on Academic Achievement and Retention of Knowledge in Science Course.” In Electronic Journal of Science Education, vol. 12, no.1. Southwestern University. http://ejse.southwestern.edu/article/view/7763/5530 (accessed October 6, 2014).

Rose, Colin. 1987. Accelerated Learning. New York: Dell Publishing.

Schutz, Paul and Reinhard Pekrun, ed. 2007. Emotion in Education. London: Academic Press.

Soyfer, Nina. 2016. “Integrated Arts Pedagogy and Philosophy.” Canada: York University. http://yorkspace.library.yorku.ca/xmlui/handle/10315/32252 (accessed January 12, 2017).

Sweller, John, Jeroen J. G. van Merrienboer, and Fred G. W. C. Paas. 1998. “Cognitive Architecture and Instructional Design.” In Educational Psychology Review, vol. 10. No. 3, pp. 251-296.

Please note this page is a direct quote form Dr. Nina Soyfer’s dissertation “Integrated Arts Pedagogy and Philosophy” defended and archived in 2016. All rights are reserved and this quotation is provided here with permission for educational purposes.

Soyfer, Nina. 2016. “Integrated Arts Pedagogy and Philosophy.” Canada: York University, pp. 2-3, 11-14. http://yorkspace.library.yorku.ca/xmlui/handle/10315/32252 (accessed January 12, 2017).